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At Perth, December 8, 9, 10, 11. Australia won by an innings and 36 runs. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debuts: S. G. Law. R. T. Ponting.
Australia won inside four days for the fifth time in eight Tests. But the controversy that dogged the series began on the second morning, when the umpires decided someone in Sri Lanka's attack had doctored the seam of the ball. The tourists protested vehemently. The umpires failed to impound the ball, so that any evidence was lost, while referee Graham Dowling seemed assured of their guilt before hearing the Sri Lankans' story. They became the first team convicted of ball-tampering in Test cricket, but ICC reversed the finding a fortnight later.
On a flat opening day, eight Sri Lankan batsmen reached double figures, but only Kaluwitharana managed 50. Warne's reputation, rather than his spin, spurred De Silva into suicide-by-bravado right on lunch. When Australia replied, the Sri Lankan attack looked below par; strike bowler Vaas was toying with his run and his confidence after back problems. Muralitharan's action attracted plenty of attention; Khizar Hayat spent an over or two watching closely from square leg, but appeared more satisfied than some television commentators, who nearly burned out their slow-motion replay. Taylor and Slater ran up 228, their second-highest opening stand in Tests, before Taylor became the first of two Australians lbw on 96. But Slater slept on a career-best 189 and completed his maiden double-hundred in the morning. Mark Waugh's tenth Test century, an imperious 111 off 223 balls, was so smooth it almost slipped by without notice. One section of the crowd even ragged him for not having a go. Debutant Ricky Ponting, nine days short of his 21st birthday, was cruelly denied a hundred. Hayat ruled him leg-before when replays showed the ball heading over the stumps. Ponting soon lent a sober perspective. "He'd been lucky to survive an outside edge first ball, he said, and besides, he would "gladly cop 96 each hit".
Taylor declared as soon as Ponting was out, with the other newcomer, Stuart Law, unbeaten on 54. Australia led by 366 and, after 12 hours hunting leather, Sri Lanka slumped to 105 for four in the next two. A century from Tillekeratne could not stave off defeat but suggested that the remaining Tests might be less one-sided. His 119 from 206 balls outpaced Waugh's and, though he became Warne's 201st Test wicket when he was last out, Warne found him as elusive as any along the way in his 42 Tests. Indeed, he conceded more than four an over while Tillekeratne and his fellow left-hander Ranatunga were together. Tillekeratne used his long reach and soft hands to good effect; his captain was more ungainly but equally threatening - and turned to the umpires after colliding with McDermott, one of a string of incidents that came to irritate the Australians. Ranatunga finally fell, for 46 in 64 balls, to a yorker from round the wicket - a calculated piece of bowling by McGrath. Taylor claimed the extra half-hour to complete the game on the fourth evening.
Man of the Match: M. J. Slater. Attendance: 28,883.
Close of play: First day, Sri Lanka 251; Second day, Australia 358-2 (M. J. Slater 189*, M. E. Waugh 36*); Third day, Sri Lanka 13-0 (R. S. Mahanama 2*, U. S. Hathurusinghe 7*).